Processing Metaphors in the Elderly: Does Valence Matter?

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Much evidence from theory and research points towards difficulties in processing metaphors by elderly people. These difficulties are usually associated with working memory and inhibitory control deficits observed in this age group, as these very functions play a crucial part in efficient metaphor processing. However, results of research on understanding metaphorical content by elderly people are inconclusive. The following article reviews studies showing that metaphor processing relies on a set of complex variables, which might explain the inconclusiveness of previous results. Though we acknowledge the role of interindividual factors (differences in cognitive functioning among the elderly), we focus on the properties of the metaphor stimuli themselves, especially those of conventionalization and valence, as they might influence the processing of verbal metaphors by people in older age groups.

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